To offer a drop-in solution to overcome the PA66 shortage, we developed an alternative material: The Akulon® IG series is a portfolio of material grades made by combining the strength of PA6 and PA46 – two materials that are fully independent of the Adiponitrile/hexamethyldiamine supply.
DSM presents how electronics & automotive trends impact polyamides
This year’s Performance Polyamides conference, hosted by Applied Market Information (AMI), in Troy, Michigan, covered the latest technical materials developments and market trends in the automotive, electronics and appliances industries. Dr. Tamim P. Sidiki, global marketing director for DSM Engineering Plastics, presented how current and future trends in the electronics and automotive markets impact polyamides.
Sidiki discussed the speed at which technology is advancing. From 2000-2007 the focus was on a digital first environment; from 2007-2017 the focus was on a mobile first environment; and from 2017 and beyond, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking the lead.
As one exciting example in the world of consumer electronics, Sidiki showcased virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Typically, VR and AR devices are connected to a computer by two or three cables. Recently the connector industry decided to create a new standard Virtual Link to integrate these connectors into one USB-C connector, which has a higher power than USB 2.0 or 3.0 and a wall thickness of only 0.18 mm.
Even though the USB-C is convenient for consumers to use, there is a risk of connector failures caused by arcing and related short circuits due to tracking. CTI and V0 performance at thin walls become key for product reliability.
“With a USB-C connector the maximum power can go up by a factor of 10 while at the same time the pitch is reduced to 0.2 mm; the power density has surged a lot,” explained Sidiki. “A continuous electrical short circuit can burn an entire phone or notebook, becoming a fire hazard. To avoid these risks, the industry defined the performance and reliability of the material choices for insulation.”
High CTI insulation plastics reduce the risk of connector failures—designers have three alternatives to choose from when it comes to increasing safety of connectors:
- Creep distance: While pitch size and minimum wall thickness of the insulating plastic are defined, the creep distance (equals the actual surface distance between two pins) can be artificially enlarged if the connector design enables such flexibility.
- Environmental pollution level: Reducing the environmental pollution such as dust, sweat, or moisture at connector level reduces the risk of tracking, but requires additional sealing.
- Higher CTI insulation material: High CTI materials are the most viable solution to increase end-product safety. Target is class PLC 0 with CTI 600 and above.
Autonomous & electric vehicle trends
Sidiki also discussed the disruption of the automotive industry—technology being the catalyst of evolution for an industry that has not seen massive changes since the early 1900s.
“Today the automotive industry is going through a radical change—the speed of technological change is rapid and soon there will be more electric vehicles (EV) and semi-autonomous vehicles on the roads,” said Sidiki. “Eventually there will be various drivetrains, including hydrogen power fuel cells and fully autonomous vehicles, all integrating more electronics into the automobiles.”
The trends in the automotive industry will be connectivity and electrification, reliability and safety, mobility concepts and the increasing complexity of applications. Future automotive technologies will focus on environmentally-friendly materials (halide free and non-ionic), flame retardancy (FR), EMI shielding, integrated electronics, waterproof electronics, thermal management, metal/plastic bonding and advanced composites.
For electric vehicles consumers want a larger driving range, thus, larger battery capacity is needed. With 800 volts 80% of charging is done in 20 minutes, which is an acceptable amount of time. However, quality and the risk of battery charging becomes a concern.
“For pure combustion engines, fire can basically only be generated if there is a crash or external fire source,” explained Sidiki. “With an EV you change the operation of the car, it gets charged in a garage, and no one is watching—you may be out of the house or sleeping, so the risk that something happens, such as a fire, while the car is charging in the garage suddenly increases.”
Today, FR for the automotive industry is defined by the escape time needed to get out of a vehicle, and since the escape time is minimal—all you need to do is open the car door and get out of the vehicle—there is no legislation requiring flame retardant materials to be used in automobiles. As research is being conducted for even higher voltage systems—China is working on charging systems up to 1,500 volts and in Europe infrastructure for 800 volts is currently being rolled out—there will come a time when legislation to require FR materials in automobiles may be created.
“A car will be treated like an unattended appliance,” explained Sidiki. “This won’t be an easy transition because FR materials cost more and have a lower performance and higher weight, so it will be very counterproductive for designers, but the risk factor is far too great. An increased amount of high-power electronics together with the high voltage electrification and unattended charging will raise the FR bar for automobiles.
Also, at this time, available plastic materials are limited to a maximum of 600 volts CTI and most equipment used to test CTI only goes up to 600 volts. But this did not stop DSM from developing dedicated ForTii and Akulon compounds with extreme CTI values meeting the upcoming needs for higher safety and reliability. These materials have been recently launched and are meeting a high pull from leading automotive tiers and OEMs.
- ForTii TX1 (V0@0.4mm): CTI = 900V
- ForTii T11 (V0@0.2mm): CTI = 825V
- Akulon SG-KGS6/HV = 700V
These higher CTI values deliver an extra level of safety, and in addition, gives product engineers the option to further miniaturize their connector and charging plug design without jeopardizing safety.
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